ALPHAMAMA exudes liberation, self-love and honesty with ‘Oil & Water’
Sydney’s ALPHAMAMA is not only one of the most influential figures in R&B/Soul/Hip-hop today – she’s probably one of the most influential artists in today’s music, period – and there’s no better proof than the pudding of her latest release OIL & WATER.
As her second full-length, OIL & WATER brings to the table the same overwhelming maturity, honesty and confidence as her first album TRUTH, TRIPS and REVELATIONS, yet if the leading single ‘3×11’ has shown anything, it’s all been turned up to 11. Mixing jazz, soul, r&b, hip-hop, pop and dance weaved through soaring vocals, gentle whispers and rapid-fire raps, ALPHAMAMA presents every facet of herself, no matter how contradictory they may seem. On the meaning behind the album, ALPHAMAMA says: “Oil & Water together create a beauty that’s other-worldly. That’s how I feel about my expression. “The main thing I want people to know, is that you NEVER ever have to be just one thing. You’re a human being with dimension and facets.”
OIL & WATER moves with such overwhelmingly fierce and positive energy, it’s impossible not to get caught up in it. Previous single ‘3×11’ serves as a gentle yet strong introduction, delivering a takedown of music-industry ageism through pounding beats and ALPHAMAMA‘s piercing and poetic flow. ‘Move Me’ turns up the heat with a four-to-the-floor synthpop/club hybrid that oozes soulful energy. After that absolute banger, ‘Spit Me Out’ acts as a palette cleanser, presenting a vulnerable ALPHAMAMA over warm keys and retro-styled R&B production. ‘A Cautious Production’ keeps the down-tempo vibe going yet puts ALPHAMAMA‘s powerful spoken word over heavily side-chained keys and a walking-pace beat. ‘Ballers ft. Nardean‘ goes a bit experimental, with a soundscape of piano and vocal-samples building up to a trip-hop sound booming over some of her most tremendous rapping yet. ‘Stranger in Asia’ presents a crisis of identity growing up as a mixed-race woman through future-trap production and gorgeous, multi-tracked vocals. ‘Ass in the Front’ serves as a well-placed breather track, exuding fierce body-positive rhymes over minimal gamelan inspired production that morphs into a jazzy breakdown. ‘Your Life’ rounds out the album with a veritable wall of sound consisting of layered samples, pounding percussion, and ALPHAMAMA‘s vocals switching between proud spoken word and soaring vocal melodies.
OIL & WATER represents everything amazing about ALPHAMAMA. It’s unashamedly proud, fiercely confident, mature and honest, supportive and empowering – not to mention, each track absolutely slaps. ALPHAMAMA has done wonders not only for Australian music, not only for soul/R&B/Hip-hop, but for women/women of colour everywhere. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and OIL & WATER is the perfect proof.
Words by MAX LEWIS